Senior Theses

Publication Date

Spring 4-20-2023

Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology


Sociology and Anthropology

Faculty Advisor(s)

Robert Owen Gardner

Subject Categories



Self-presentation in a virtual online context has taken on an increasingly significant and complex role due to the exponential growth of online presence, personas, avatars, and subsequent role-playing behavior, expanding the various ways in which we present ourselves in virtual spaces. The emergence of this “virtual self” comes with the growing options for online interaction, including social media, blogs, forums, and a wide variety of interactive video games. Reliable and enduring elements of the virtual setting have helped to foster and create a sense of relatable community. Through repeated and ritualized virtual interaction, users generate novel community norms that arise from their routine encounters.

In this thesis, I examine the role of self-presentation in online multiplayer gameplay settings to understand how social actors present themselves and negotiate online and offline identities in virtual spaces. In particular, I examine the presentation of self, and the “blended self”, in the dystopic open-world role-playing game, Fallout 76. Through this ethnographic research, I demonstrate that in this particular virtual world the communal norms are altruistic. However, unlike works like Solnit (2009), these behavioral norms do not emerge as a direct result of the natural disaster, despite many similarities. They are a by-product of the player's attempt to recreate himself in this online frame and a functioning community within the already established game that ultimately reciprocates this altruism. Through this research I aim to examine what sustains this behavior and what leads to altered player behavior that does not match the troll-esque stereotypes that many associate with big name games.

Included in

Sociology Commons